Berkeley County Historical Society

Berkeley County Historical Society Preserving the history of Berkeley County, WV.

The Berkeley County Historical Society began in the late 1920’s. Citizens, interested in preserving the diverse history of the county joined to do their best to keep their families, friends and neighbors mindful of where they all came from and how the area came to have such a rich and diverse background. When the Great Depression struck, through the hardships of World War II, the society fell inactive. The cause was taken up again in the 1950’s being organized into a formal Society in 1963. The Society has met regularly since that time.

On August 2, 1928, near Bunker Hill, in southern Berkeley County, at an old frame house that once belonged to the Lamon ...
06/13/2020

On August 2, 1928, near Bunker Hill, in southern Berkeley County, at an old frame house that once belonged to the Lamon family, an auction was held. Inside the house was an old and unusual desk.
The desk was tall, homely and full of unexpected compartments, generous in size, widespread and sturdy. More than sixty years previous, that desk belonged to a tall, thin man with serious, honest eyes, who worked on the details of his law practice at that desk.
It is said the desk was given to his law partner, one Ward Hill Lamon, who hailed from Bunker Hill. The other law partner was Abraham Lincoln, who, not long after, would become one of, if not THE greatest leader the United States has ever had.
The auction items included beautiful old sideboards, a four-poster bed, and stiff and uncomfortable chairs, covered with horsehair, of course. There were old clothes, old bottles of whiskey and rumors of a suit and shirt once worn by the President himself, that never materialized.
Lamon was born in the house where the auction took place (it is long gone now) in 1828. He died in 1893. There were alleged to have been two bottles of liquor that had been seized by U.S. authorities during the Civil War, more than sixty years previous.
Among the papers were three documents signed by Lincoln. One was a pass, dated April 11, 1865, for Lamon to go Richmond, where he was when Lincoln was assassinated. After the assassination, Lamon returned to Berkeley County, where he became a member of the law firm of Blackburn Hughes in Martinsburg.
The desk was the drawing card of the auction. A crowd of nearly five hundred people were in attendance that morning. They came from Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, New York and as far south as Harrisonburg, Virginia. No one was willing to pay more than $29.50 for the desk, as there were no papers and no documentation of its history – and so, what may have been Abraham Lincoln’s desk during his early career and rise to prominence disappeared into obscurity.

For those whose interests include “famous firsts”, here are some “local firsts” to consider.In May of 1842, the Baltimor...
06/10/2020

For those whose interests include “famous firsts”, here are some “local firsts” to consider.
In May of 1842, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad first reached Martinsburg. By October, the line was complete to Cumberland, Maryland. Martinsburg was approximately one hundred miles down the line from Baltimore and became a division point.
Martinsburg’s original John Street School was built as a grammar school. Four grades were taught there. It was destroyed by fire in 1908 and a new school was erected in the same location a year later. It was used as a school until 1972.
You may be familiar with the Martinsburg Street Railroad, which lasted about four years in the 1890s. Its construction began when the first load of rails was delivered in July 1891. By the end of September, construction was complete. It ran from near Tuskegee Street and West King Street to the Public Square, to the B&O Railroad Depot near the Roundhouse, from East Martin to East Stephen Street, to Virginia Avenue and then to Elkins Park, south of Wilson Street. There wasn’t enough business to support the railway, and in 1896, the cars were sold to Hagerstown Street Railway.
In 1913, Doctors T.K. Oates, W.T. Henshaw and J. Nelson Osbourn performed the first Caesarian operation in Berkeley County. This now routine operation was not without much risk to both mother and child in the early days.
In 1961, the first Commercial airline service in Martinsburg opened with the arrival, at what was then called Municipal Airport, of a Lake Central Airlines passenger plane, from Washington-Baltimore to Charleston. The first passenger to board the plane was Charles E. Roberts, recently transferred from the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company in Martinsburg to Charleston.
Lastly, a little “did you know”. In 1891, there was a bicycle factory in Martinsburg. William E. Hoffheins paid $135 for that first bicycle made in the Martinsburg factory. That was an expensive bicycle in those days!

Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove was born in Lonaconing, Maryland in 1900.  He worked in the glass industry until 1919, when h...
06/06/2020

Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove was born in Lonaconing, Maryland in 1900. He worked in the glass industry until 1919, when his employer shut down operations.
One of his coworkers suggested they try out for the Midland Independent baseball team. He had never played baseball before, but at six foot three, his friend suggested he was tall enough to try.
He got a tryout at first base and thought he was doing well, but the manager told him he’d never be a first baseman. However, the other players remarked at how hard he threw the ball. So he got to try out as a pitcher.
He was a sensational pitcher. He didn’t lose a game for Midland, and struck out twenty batters in one game and twenty-two in another.
The Martinsburg Mountaineers of the class-D Blue Ridge League signed him for the 1920 season. Lefty had impressive statistics in just six games and attracted the attention of the manager/owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles, Jack Dunn, Sr. Dunn knew talent. Among the players he had discovered was Babe Ruth.
Baltimore purchased Grove’s contract. During that season, he won twelve games and lost but two, and was successful in Baltimore for four seasons.
In the winter of 1924, the Philadelphia Athletics purchased his contract for $100,600, a record price at the time. It was speculated that he’d fail because of his control problems.
For two years, it appeared he might fail, but after the 1926 season, the coaches solved his control problems. He was working too fast. He followed their advice and over thirteen seasons, won 263 games. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.
Lefty Grove led the American League in wins in four seasons, in strikeouts seven years in a row and had the league’s lowest earned run average nine times, a record. Between 1929 and 1931, he led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA twice, compiling a record of 79 wins and 15 losses, leading the Athletics to three consecutive AL championships. He won 300 games in seventeen seasons.
While he wasn’t here for very long, Lefty Grove’s success began in Martinsburg – and I’ll bet you thought Hack Wilson was Martinsburg’s only baseball Hall of Famer.

In 1876, D.M. Shaffer and his brother leased the brick hotel on the corner of King and Queen Streets to Dr. J. Johnson. ...
06/03/2020

In 1876, D.M. Shaffer and his brother leased the brick hotel on the corner of King and Queen Streets to Dr. J. Johnson. Johnson hired workmen to build an addition with expectations that it would be completed by April 1.
The hotel, new from “cellar to attic”, was constructed in “modern” style with gas, water and bathrooms. The dining room, kitchen and pantries, washroom, offices, bar, parlors and reception room were on the first floor. The second and third floors contained twenty-five large and thoroughly ventilated rooms. The Continental was comfortable and elegant.
Dr. Johnson expected the Continental to become a popular public resort. However, on April 1, 1877, William Rutledge took charge. Rutledge knew how to run a first-class hotel. He bought all new furniture for the Continental, as he had the reputation of serving the public in excellent style. He was all a landlord should be, courteous, attentive and polite, rendering every possible attention to strangers and guests.
The Continental had one of the best stables and stable yards to be found anywhere. It was large enough to handle fifty horses and to park many vehicles. Rutledge wanted his customers to be comfortable knowing that their horses were also well-cared for.
In 1899, the hotel, the most popular in Martinsburg, was closed for the first time in over twenty years. D.M. Shaffer, the owner, sold the furniture and fixtures at public auction a week later, but about ten days after, he thoroughly renovated it with the intention of reopening. On June 15, 1899, the Continental opened its doors again under the management of John W. Dodd. Again, the interior had been thoroughly cleaned and fitted with new furniture, new carpets, and the walls repapered and repainted.
Once again, in 1902, the furniture and fixtures were sold and workmen began making improvements. The hotel was leased by a Mr. Martin, who ran the dining car on the B.&O. The name of the hotel was changed to Hotel Martin.
However, just two years later, in November of 1904, the Hotel Martin was advertised for sale by Special Commissioners, which indicates it had financial troubles. The building eventually became the Old National Bank Building and is still a landmark on the Public Square.

Researching the articles that are published here twice a week sometimes takes an interesting turn.  Recently, the articl...
05/30/2020

Researching the articles that are published here twice a week sometimes takes an interesting turn. Recently, the article on pottery was inspired after reading a book on the history of Strasburg, Virginia, then wondering why there wasn’t a pottery industry here.
Sometimes topics are suggested by other members of BCHS, or by a friend or acquaintance. Sometimes they are the culmination of many hours of research and what you read here is but a condensed version of a larger work archived at BCHS.
Much of the information contained here comes from newspapers. That means microfilm, which is much different than it was years ago because it’s all digital now. And it is downloadable. Technology, right? It makes things easier if you let it.
Recent data mining of old newspapers has turned up some interesting facts. Not facts that, by themselves, would be enough information to write an article, but things that are interesting enough to make you go, “hmmm.”
The May 8, 1890 Martinsburg Statesman newspaper said that Mr. John W. Bishop, very successful businessman who had a mill near the railroad underpass on North Queen Street, petitioned the city council to name the junction of Maple Avenue and Queen Street “Exchange Place.” And so they did!
In March of 1908, Contractor S.E. Ellis began excavating for the new Y.M.C.A. building on West King Street. That building would go on to, at one time, house both City Hall and the Public Library.
In 1947, Lacy I. Rice announced that a $100,000 store and office building would be constructed on the Everett House site, on the southwest corner of Queen and Burke Streets. If you’ve been in the area long enough, think People’s Drug Store.
In November of 1908, the work on the piers that carried what today is Route 11 over the Potomac River at Williamsport was almost complete, and the steel work was about to begin.
These “nuggets” of information connect the dots in the larger picture and sometimes they help us see how and why things happened in later years. Do you think that when the “new” Potomac River Bridge opened it had an effect on the local economy on both sides of the river?

Felix Grundy was born on Back Creek in Berkeley County on September 11, 1777.  His father was a native of England, and m...
05/27/2020

Felix Grundy was born on Back Creek in Berkeley County on September 11, 1777. His father was a native of England, and moved the family to Kentucky in 1780. Felix’s childhood was passed in fear of the perils of Indian warfare.
He was educated at Bardstown Academy and studied law. He soon became a distinguished attorney and began his public career in Springfield, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-two, as a representative from Washington County, to the convention to draft the second constitution of the state of Kentucky. From 1800 to 1802, he represented Washington County in the Kentucky House of Representatives, then moved to Nelson County, where he was the representative from 1804 to 1806.
In December 1806, he was commissioned an associate justice on the Kentucky Court of Appeals and in April 1807, he became the Chief Justice of the Court. He resigned from the post later that year and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he became prominent as a lawyer.
In 1818, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and resigned during his second term in 1814. During his time in Congress, he was so supportive of President James Madison’s war measures against Great Britain during the War of 1812, that he became known as the “War Hawk” of Democracy.
From 1819 until 1825, he served in the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 1820, he served as commissioner to settle the boundary between Tennessee and Kentucky.
Ion 1829, he was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Jacksonian Democrat to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of John H. Eaton. He was re-elected in 1832 and served until July, 1838, when he resigned to become Attorney General of the United States by appointment of President Martin Van Buren. He resigned the position in December of 1839 and was again elected to the U.S. Senate. He was a mentor to future President James K. Polk.
Felix Grundy died at the age of sixty-three years in December 1840. While a member of the Senate, he visited Berkeley County and his birthplace, but found only a dilapidated stone chimney that marked the site of the cabin where he was born.

Memorial Day honors and mourns military personnel who died while serving in the Armed Forces.  From 1868 to 1970 it was ...
05/23/2020

Memorial Day honors and mourns military personnel who died while serving in the Armed Forces. From 1868 to 1970 it was observed on May 30, but since that time it is observed on the last Monday of May.
Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers before the Civil War, and their ceremonies were somber and simple, held for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend the cemeteries. By the Twentieth Century, various traditions celebrated on different days merged to resemble today’s Memorial Day.
On Memorial Day, May 30, 1900, President William McKinley spoke in nearby Sharpsburg, Maryland, at the site of the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam. Sergeant McKinley fought with the 23rd Ohio Infantry on that day. Many of Martinsburg’s residents made the trip to hear the President speak.
Those who stayed behind had the opportunity to witness a parade organized by the Lincoln Post of the G.A.R. (Union veterans of the Civil War). It formed in the Public Square and proceeded to the Catholic and (Old) Norbourne Cemeteries, then to Green Hill Cemetery.
The parade consisted of the Martinsburg City Band; Company E, First Regiment, WV National Guard; Jr. Order United American Mechanics; Knights of Pythias; Lincoln Post G.A.R.; and Berkeley County Camp Confederate Veterans.
When the parade reached Green Hill Cemetery, a salute of three guns was fired in honor of the brave men who fought, fell and died for the causes they deemed right and just. An address by Hon. G.F. Evans followed.
In 1932, the Berkeley Post American Legion sponsored ceremonies at the Doughboy Memorial and Green Hill Cemetery. The Legion, local Spanish American War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign War, Co. D National Guard, Comrey’s Concert Band, Boy Scouts and City Firemen formed a parade at the Armory on East John Street. They marched to the Doughboy memorial where the Boy Scouts laid a wreath.
After a brief prayer, the parade was led to the cemetery, where American flags were placed on the graves of those who died fighting for their country. Rev. Dr. F.R. Wagner, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, spoke of the men and the heritage they left to forever be remembered. Finally, the American Legion’s ritualistic memorial service was carried out by the local post.
Enjoy your holiday weekend, but don’t forget the reason for the holiday.

05/23/2020

The "numbers behind the stories." Our Facebook posts, which began in 2017 and number more than 350, have now been viewed more than 2.3 million times. Thanks to everyone for their support! We plan to keep the history coming.

During the Civil War, Berkeley County’s strategic importance was evident.  It was located with easy access to the Potoma...
05/20/2020

During the Civil War, Berkeley County’s strategic importance was evident. It was located with easy access to the Potomac River and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It was on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Valley Pike (Route 11).
By World War II, little had changed strategically, but that war was not fought on American soil. The distance from Washington, DC to Martinsburg is close to fifty miles by air. Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are other populous areas that are in close proximity by air.
Why is this important? You may ask. Had World War II spilled across the Atlantic and had enemy aircraft been within striking distance, it would have made a difference.
Had enemy planes attacked Washington, Berkeley County would have been in what was referred to as the “dog fight zone” – the area over which dog fights would have occurred between U.S. and enemy planes.
Areas nearby might have been rendezvous points. Harpers Ferry would have been perfect, and the Potomac River would have been the perfect route to follow to the target. Should enemy planes have dropped their bombs, they might have struck anywhere in Berkeley County.
At the beginning of the war, Route 11 was widened and strengthened to allow heavy equipment to be transported more easily. There was a plan for military storage areas along Route 11 in case of amphibious attacks on the coast. Route 11 would have been the front line.
Major attacks on metropolitan areas might have resulted in the need for wounded or evacuees to be transported elsewhere. Officials in West Virginia were requested to organize local defense councils to represent a cross section of residents of the area, such as farmers, educators, health care professionals, etc., as well as law enforcement.
Berkeley County’s defense council met a number of times to discuss the county’s defense. It was not until after Pearl Harbor, however, that public interest grew. The seriousness of the situation caused the people of Berkeley County to take an active interest in its defense.
We are fortunate that World War II never set foot in Berkeley County, but it looks like there was a plan in place for her defense. War is hell, but no one fights like a soldier defending his home. Let us hope that Berkeley County never finds itself in such a predicament.

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126 E Race St
Martinsburg, WV
25401

General information

BCHS Archives and Research Center is open by appointment only (Thursday and Friday). To make an appointment, please give two weeks advance notice. Appointments can be made at 304-267-4713 and by email at [email protected]

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Comments

I don't mean to be upsetting, or controversial by asking this, but wasn't there an African American guy named Joe Burns who was lynched back in the mid - 1800's? It said there was in that hardcover Berkeley County History book that was released years ago. I was just curious as to what happened for such an awful thing to happen.
Hey everyone! Just curious if you may have any old photos showing Leporini's Shoe Shop in Martinsburg, by chance. Thanks, Kindly!
Is there a map that overlays the original Morgan Morgan 1,000 acre land grant onto a current map? I would like to see if my home (in Southside Subdivision on Charming Lane - off of Torytown Road) was part of the original land grant.
I have a marriage record 3b112 of a James Shane and a Catherine Snode (I believe it should be Shrode) from April 15, 1809. Where would I find the actual document?
Folks, what is the proper way to refer to a person from Berkeley county? Berkeleyian, Berkeleyite, etc?
The brst recognition ever
I'll be a top fan forever if yall let me, great honor.
It's great to be honored by a terrific historical society
Proud to be a top fan of such a top page
I have ties to Berkley co., I love Berkeley co and the whole state of W.Va
As a kid, my Dad lived for a time in the row houses on Raleigh St./corner of Race St. I think they were called The 7 Sisters..? Do you have information on them?
My father is from here , I love by GOD West Virginia